By George, I Think She’s Got It

I’ve never been able to say how many times I go through a WIP to edit it. In my usual disorganized fashion, I might do several chapters, leave it for days and weeks, and then try to go back to more or less where I left off. The result, I’m sure, is that some chapters haven’t had enough eye time, while others have been worked down to the bone. Scrivener has been my long-time helpmeet, keeping me more or less organized, but it can’t do everything.

I’ve sworn, over and over, that at least one readthrough has to be from page one to the last page, without distractions. But I’ve never accomplished it — until this week. I tried different methods, including reading Camp Expendable on my Kindle, but that never worked out — for one simple reason, I now realize. I couldn’t keep myself from doing the editing as I read. On the Kindle, that means making notes for every highlight because you can’t edit on it. If there’s anything more distracting than making notes on a Kindle, I haven’t discovered it yet.

I’m not one to give up, though. (stubborn, pig-headed, slow learner) The secret — cue the trumpets — is to highlight the trouble spots and just charge ahead. That leaves me with the obvious problem of remembering exactly why those highlights are there. But once I’ve spotted a problem, it isn’t really that difficult to go back and realize what it was. So, I am now the proud possessor of a novel which I read straight through in three days, doing nothing to distract me from getting a good overview.

There are probably well over 100 highlights, which is a discouragingly impressive number considering how many times I’ve been through the novel, weeding out clumsy sentences, poor word choices, etc. But it’s also encouraging. I only found two or three actual typos, and one continuity problem, so that really isn’t too bad for a length of almost 78,000 words. Most of the work to be done involves fleshing out some of my usual bare-bones sentences, and restructuring others. I’ll also be adding one short scene which, if I’m very lucky, won’t introduce a whole batch of new problems.

With all those highlights to guide me and keep me on track, maybe I’ll actually have the damn thing completed to my satisfaction within the next few days. But haven’t I said that before? Stay tuned.

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8 thoughts on “By George, I Think She’s Got It

  1. The phenomenon of being completely stuck on something, to the point where you despair of EVER getting through it, is described in Karen Pryor’s Book, Don’t Shoot the Dog, as the ‘pre-learning tantrum’: the place where the old doesn’t work any more, the new isn’t working yet,m and the subject is caught in a vise.

    Fortunately, it signals that the learning (ie, solving the problem, whatever it is) is about to happen/is happening. I’ve learned to not get too frustrated there – and think of the horrible gut feeling as presaging the future when the problem is already solved. Because that’s how it usually works out.

    Thanks for reminding me that’s probably what’s going on right now with PC2: I’m writing a new scene for which I have some old text, but for which the old text is completely unsatisfactory. And I’ve figured out what I’m trying to do, and why it’s sticking. I may just need to read all my notes, and take the plunge of writing it from scratch – just to see what’s there. Last time I did that, I was very pleased. My subconscious had been working quietly away, and the new words slipped into space.

    Worth a try.

    Congratulations on getting through the whole read beginning to end. I don’t think I’ve managed that yet. Too long. I’ve seen other people do it – or heard about it – usually including that it kept them up way too late. Hehe.

    Keep going. Sounds like you’re making a breakthrough.

    1. Always trust your subconscious, But also expect that it isn’t going to speak up exactly when you want it to. That in-between state can be a bitch, but it’s full of richness, too. Lucky me that my books tend toward the short side. I do have one hanger-on from several NaNos ago that’s over 100,000 words. Maybe that’s what’s kept me from getting back to it. I love the story, but it’s so complex that I doubt I can shorten it significantly. I get discouraged every time I open it up and take a look. But I’m determined to do it.

      I’ll have to take a look at Don’t Shoot the Dog.

      1. Why shorten the book? Maybe its natural length is 100K – or more. Pride’s Children’s a complex book – the total layers to the story will end up around a half million. And the people who like it have not complained.

        I am ruthless when writing scenes – if it doesn’t contribute to several areas, out it goes. Almost sparse, if you know everything I’m trying to pack in. Wordy if you don’t get me. Wordy if you think you’re reading a Romance (you aren’t, but that’s where the negative reviews came from).

        I only worry about them passing my tests of value – can’t worry about other people, too.

          1. The trick is to ALWAYS lower your expectations – to where you’re meeting them regularly.

            People put pressure on themselves, when they should be using positive reinforcement. You should be treating yourself the way you would treat a treasured apprentice.

            Ultimately, it’s all a mind game we play with ourselves, but Pryor tells us one game works far better than the other. Because we’re still animals, probably.

            I don’t mean you should give yourself a trophy for breathing every day – that’s silly. But if things are hard, and you still do some of them, it is better to take credit for that, and enjoy it, and write it in your victory journal, than to kill the buzz by telling yourself where you failed.

            IMHO

    2. 🙂 I didn’t realize Don’t Shoot the Dog is literally about dog training. I thought it was a metaphor. Oh well. But she’s still absolutely right about that in-between state. Just as true for us human beings as for dogs.

      1. Animals – and behavior modification methods (4 negative, 4 positive, and the information that the positive ones work best – no duh!) .

        I’ve used her book to remind me of the principles of behavioral conditioning, and occasionally to work on myself.

        My daughter has done marvels with the chinchilla – she’s a natural trainer, better than I am (I’m a softie – she and Bill both withhold treats until behavior is received, as you’re supposed to).

        But I think the idea of the pre-learning tantrum is one of my favorites from the book – it lets me relax instead of tightening up further when things don’t go well.

  2. Heck, I thought it was a metaphor, too. Congrats on getting all the way through in one hit, the highlighting idea is great. One hundred’s not bad at all at this stage; I think I ended up with around 120 at the same stage with Dropping Out, and that was a much shorter work – only about 55K – so congrats again. Well done.

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